VANOC goes on, long after its own closing ceremony 

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Almost three years after the 2010 Games, a small team of Olympic organizers is still tying up loose ends with at least $5.8 million at its disposal.

But with no public financial reporting in the last two years, it's not clear where the money is being spent as organizers clean up after the Games.

After learning about recent upgrades to the Whistler venues,

Pique tracked down the source of the funding and learned that the Vancouver Organizing Committee for the 2010 Olympic and Paralympic Winter Games (VANOC) still exists with money at its disposal, though it is widely presumed to be disbanded.

It is unable to dissolve officially until all legal matters are settled, among other things.

A select team of senior VANOC leaders continues to deal with outstanding affairs on a contract basis. Their work to date includes making multi-million dollar decisions on upgrades to Olympic venues, with oversight from the 20-member VANOC board of directors.

More than $2 million, for example, has gone into capital improvements in Whistler venues since the Games, namely $1.7 million this year for upgrades to the sliding track and a further $350,000 for kitchen updates at the athletes' centre.

"As it relates specifically to the venues, you'll recall that when we designed and built the venues, we wanted them to be left to the final owners in such a condition that they would offer the best possible legacy," emailed Renee Smith-Valade, VANOC'S former vice president of communications and retained on contract with the organization.

"VANOC provided for remediation and conversion funds in its final accruals and has worked with the Whistler Legacy Society, along with other venues, to ensure that it completed or funded remediation activities through the course of the windup. The Whistler venues were unique in that the venues were the only facilities actually developed and owned by VANOC prior to the Games and as such the remediation process has been more intensive."

But it's not clear how the rest of the money is being spent. Smith-Valade said funding for the wind up activities comes from multiple sources. She did, however, specifically note the $5.865 million contribution from the International Olympic Committee (IOC) as "a deferred IOC contribution, which was to be available for other costs of dissolution."

Despite its status as a not-for-profit organization, VANOC is not required to report publicly and it hasn't for the last two years.

VANOC's last public accounting was the December 17, 2010 Annual Report.

Over the last two years no reports have been released publicly.

When asked why Smith-Valade emailed: "There is financial reporting and there have been audits. However, as an entity that for all intents and purposes is no longer operating, VANOC reports to its Board of Directors and is not required to make that reporting public."

When further questioned about the two-year gap in public accounting, Smith-Valade explained in a follow up email:

"In fact, the vast majority of not-for-profits do not report publicly, largely because there is no public interest and there is no such obligation for not-for-profits to report publicly. They report to their Boards and to their members and VANOC is doing this."

The two Whistler representatives on the 20-member board were former municipal Chief Administrative Office Jim Godfrey and Tourism Whistler's president and CEO Barrett Fisher. Other board members include Ken Dobell, Rick Turner and Rusty Goepel, all representing the province, Chief Gibby Jacob, representing Squamish and Lil'wat First Nations and Penny Ballam, of the city of Vancouver.

In the final report at the end of 2010, with the Games complete and the majority of risks resolved, it states:

"VANOC is entering the final months of its dissolution phase."

Two years later, and still not yet dissolved, Smith-Valade explained:

"Most organizing committees exist for several years after the Games. While our goal was to wrap up as quickly as possible, the resolution of a few matters has taken longer but the timeframe is still well within the norm for an organising (sic) committee. A legal entity such as VANOC cannot simply go away on its own volition. It must ensure that all of its affairs are properly closed off. Sometimes the resolution of matters depends on matters outside of the control of the organization and that is the case here. That statement would have been made with the intention of dissolving as soon as possible and that is still the goal, while still being responsible to wrapping up outstanding issues responsibly."

Smith-Valade said there are "very few" legal matters outstanding at this point.

"They are in the process of being resolved," she said.

Just this week the owner of Mario's Gelati, a Vancouver ice cream shop, settled out of court with VANOC. The lawsuit, against VANOC, the city and the federal and provincial governments, sought more than $2.5 million for lost business due to construction of the athletes' village near the shop. Details on the settlement are guarded by a confidentiality agreement.

Pemberton-based Coast Range Heli-skiing also launched a lawsuit against VANOC, the Vancouver 2010 Integrated Security Unit, and the federal and provincial governments for private nuisance. Coast Range claimed it laid off staff and closed for business in the winter of 2010 because temporary Olympic security measures made it impossible to do business. The status of that lawsuit is not clear at this point.

The lawsuit said VANOC was compensating Whistler Blackcomb, among others, for lost business and should do the same for Coast Range.

This week Pique learned Whistler Blackcomb was compensated $32.328 million as outlined in its 2011 annual report. It was the so-called "make whole agreement" —payment for the business lost over the course of putting on the 2010 Games.

The compensation was based on a number of factors including the difference between what the ski hills would normally expect to make and how much they actually did make in the Olympic year.

Cypress Mountain was also up for the same type of compensation agreement.


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